The Ghost Train was first performed at the St. Martin's Theatre, London, in November 1925 and its author was a young actor named Arnold Ridley (better known now as the doddering Godfrey of Dad's Army on TV). It was an instant success and has remained one ever since.
One might ask why The Ghost Train has lasted when so many other plays of that fragile theatrical era have vanished. For at first sight The Ghost Train is just another example of that popular twenties artform the comedy thriller. "A creaky example of the genre" a critic in The Daily Telegraph called it recently, and indeed it has few pretensions to brilliant dialogue or characterisation, besides containing its full share of theatrical clichés and improbabilities.
But The Ghost Train has outlived the rest because of its superb situation and the sheer suspense of its plot. Who could think of a more tense situation than to have six people stranded for the night in a deserted Cornish station haunted by the ghost of a train which crashed twenty years previously? Linked with the situation have traditionally gone the dramatic sound effects that are now part of the play's reputation.
In this respect, The Ghost Train shares something with other long-lasting plays of a popular nature, such as Charley's Aunt. It's not the dialogue that makes Charley's Aunt so popular it's the brilliant comedy situation. In The Ghost Train it's the drama (and comedy) of the situation which has carried the play along for three generations.
Today, The Ghost Train has passed through the stage of being merely dated, and can be played as a period piece. A modern audience thus get double enjoyment. They can appreciate the play for itself and at the same time have an interesting look at a typical piece of twenties theatrical writing.
To add to the period flavour we are (trying to recreate some of the atmosphere of an evening at the theatre in 1925. For instance, this programme is largely a facsimile of the original first night programme at the St. Martin's. The Questors electronic sound equipment will remain unused and the sound effects will be produced live, as in the original production. For Music we have something that's very rare in the theatre today a real live trio to play the audience in and play them out.
Alas we have no matinees. Otherwise we should most certainly have served trays of tea.